Category Archives: Genre

A Tantalizing Opening

You know how you meet someone and then you can’t remember their name later? And you keep meaning to ask, but eventually it’s too late and you’re too embarrassed to admit that you can’t remember? That’s how I feel about this blog. I got distracted and stopped posting and when I finally remembered that I HAD a blog, I realized that to start posting again meant admitting that I’d stopped in the first place. So I’m sucking it up and admitting it. Here goes:

Sorry, I got really distracted… But it was for good reasons, I promise. Reasons like a new novel. And a 4th birthday (I got carried away with the fairy theme). And my daughter’s daycare getting shut down unexpectedly. Lame. I feel especially bad about my timing as I had joined a blogfest thing and completely chumped out on it.

I went to this great conference, I got all these ideas, I decided to scrap my (mostly) completed manuscript (that I got critiqued and actually pitched and everything), and I spent a ton of time researching and fleshing out this idea for an urban fantasy that I am so, so, SO pleased with. The planets have totally aligned with this idea and I just can’t stop thinking about it. Unfortunately, with my eldest daughter NOT in school two days a week and some major teething going on with the baby, I haven’t had as much time to write as I’d like. On either my project OR the blog (obviously).

So here’s a random topic that is marginally related to both my new project and to the RMFW conference. Sara Megibow from Nelson Literary Agency said that she wants to see the genre within the first few paragraphs of a novel. And I though, dang. That’s tough, especially for an urban fantasy where I want to introduce the creepy stuff slowly. I’m working on it, though – I’m trying some intimations of creepy in preparation for the actual creepy. But as I was thinking about this problem, I finally got to have a date with my husband.

You see, I have these two little kids and no baby sitters. But my mom came to visit for the aforementioned birthday party and my husband and I took the opportunity to go see a movie. Now, I know many writers are rabidly opposed to using movies as models for novels, but I feel like structure is structure. I think there’s something to be learned from any artistic genre – movies, tv, music, art, whatever. They’re all trying to communicate a story, right?

So anyway, we finally got to see “Cowboys and Aliens”, which I found delightful. And that opening scene was so perfectly aligned with Megibow’s discussion of the first pages of a novel, which I’d been thinking about anyway – a perfect storm of circumstances. I’m pretty sure the opening was in the trailer, so hopefully I’m not spoiling anything here:

The camera pans across a western landscape, complete with dusty scrub and towering orange mesas (sets location). A man sits up suddenly, dressed in grubby 19th century western clothes – complete with bloody patches (inciting incident – sets time period, characterization, and intimates the circumstances). He looks around, confused, noticing a big, weird looking metal cuff on his wrist (sets sci-fi genre – obviously there’s something more than a western going on here). Then he sees a photo of a woman in the dirt next to him and you can tell that he doesn’t know who she is. Then he kicks the butt of three mounted, armed ruffians (intriguing action). This is, what? The first minute of the movie? Amazing.

Now, I understand that you can’t convey information this quickly in a novel. It takes a lot longer to create this kind of setting in writing than in a visual medium. But still, dang. I was so impressed at how quickly the movie established everything you could want in the opening of a story – everything Sara Megibow wanted, in fact. Genre, inciting incident, setting, time frame, character, mystery, action… Again, amazing.

So the take away is about details. The judicious allocation of pertinent details can immediately submerge your reader in your world – details can establish your character, your motivations, your setting, etc. Not too many or there’s overload and tedium and slow pacing. Not too few or your reader has no connection or investment. But just enough and just the right details can set everything up while still leaving the mystery intact. Tantalizing. That’s what you want, right? Tantalizing while still building expectations for your reader.

I like the word tantalizing. It’s underutilized. And doubly appropriate when talking about Daniel Craig.

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Filed under Bloging, Conferences, Genre, Manuscript, Reflection, Writing Craft

Getting ready for my conference!

So I leave tomorrow night for the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s Conference. I am super excited – although I am overwhelmed at how much I still need to get done! I have to get some physical materials ready and pack, but more than anything I need to get ready for my in-laws to be here without me for 4 days. And they’ll be taking care of both my children for 2 of those days and the baby chose this week to get off her schedule. So I have to work on naps and make a metric ton of baby food. And the house is a mess! Ah, the life of a writer, right?

So I was looking through the conference schedule yesterday and there are just so many great sessions… and they all run over each other. I actually had to break down and make a color-coded schedule in Excel to see which sessions I could do without conflict and which ones overlapped and by how much (they’re also all different lengths). Conveniently, I should be getting a jump drive with all the session handouts already on it (to save paper) so I won’t have to sneak in to get handouts and then sneak out to go to another session. I hate doing that – it makes me feel dirty.

But I have tough decisions. For Example, Bernard Cornwell (who is the whole reason I’m going to this conference) is giving a three hour talk on Saturday, but it conflicts with two other great sounding sessions – one on making your story more complex with subplots and secondary characters and one on turning your book research into publishable articles. And that’s only one example. I guess I should be glad there are so many cool sessions, but seriously.

One thing I’m really hoping for is to get inspired to choose a genre for my next project. I’m still totally undecided between historical fiction and urban fantasy… and the more I think about it, the more undecided I am. I’m hoping to get a sense of the market right now and also how to go about starting each genre and maybe I’ll get some little tidbit that will catapult me in one direction or another. I’ll be done with my revision at some point in the next few months and I want to start on my next project while I’m querying.

So, anyone else going to this conference?

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Filed under Conferences, Genre